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Escaping Violence and Abuse: a New Model for Refuge Provision

April marked our two-year milestone of providing the escaping violence and abuse (EVA) project at Harbour Housing.

EVA acts as an innovative hybrid between a traditional refuge space and a complex needs accommodation facility, ensuring that survivors of abuse with additional needs such as mental health issues, disability, pet ownership or addiction struggles can access safety and support.

An estimated 1.6 million women experienced domestic abuse across the United Kingdom last year, with many of those struggling with additional needs.

Survivors of domestic abuse have a three-fold risk of depressive disorders, four-fold risk of anxiety, and seven-fold risk of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The EVA project provides twelve spaces to survivors of abuse with complex needs and has seen a huge demand for the service in the past two years, with 79% of those referred into the project disclosing a mental health issue. 

Data also suggests that women experiencing domestic abuse are up to six times more likely to use or develop dependency on alcohol or drugs.

Of the women who have accessed this specialist provision, 90% received support around their substance use, demonstrating a real need for this kind of service.

The EVA service is unique in that it is modelled around the concept of elastic tolerance. This means that no barriers to support are put in place and the service can work with people even if they are in active addiction or have mental health issues that are difficult to manage.

Whether women are in active addiction or struggling to break off a relationship, we can safely work with them at the stage they’re at using harm reduction tools such as naloxone and rigorous safety plans to manage risk. 

Clients on our EVA scheme can be housed at any of our properties across mid Cornwall depending on their needs and whether they would benefit more from shared environments or self-contained units, as well as high staff presence or more independent living.

One of our properties is specifically tailored for women who have higher vulnerabilities or are more at risk. This all-female house has been designed alongside the women in our EVA service to be trauma-informed from the start.

Elements such as the fish pond in the garden, the doors designed not to slam and the phones in each room with speed dial to essential services all work together to ensure that it is a psychologically informed space which encourages growth and recovery.

65% of those in the service self-reported increased feelings of safety during their stay, with one resident stating that the peaceful environment improved her feelings of anxiety.

To mark the two year milestone of this project we have undertaken a review of the service to capture what makes the model successful and any areas for growth.

Jasmine (not her real name) explained what the project meant to her:

“I wasn’t judged for my addiction issues when I came here. Instead they took time to build positive relationships with me and supported me to engage with other services, at my own pace. 

“At first I was all over the place, and I needed that at the start, had they not had that elastic tolerance on substances I would have just been homeless again.

“It took time to rebuild my confidence and withdraw from the negativity in my life, but I’ve done it.

“The safety I feel at my accommodation has really helped me to grow and heal from my past.

“I’m really looking forwards to moving on and I’m really grateful I was able to come here when I really needed it.

“They assist you until you find you’re just doing it yourself.

“The world’s my oyster now.”

Jasmine is now moving to her own home and planning to enrol in the next year of her college course, none of which would have been possible if she had not been able to access safety and support because of her addiction.

This really encapsulates the need for the EVA services and demonstrates the positive difference it can make to people’s lives.

Harbour Housing's EVA Project: Evaluation Video

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